Mar 24th, 2006, 04:58 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Walk the Talk
Wednesday, March 02, 2005 at 0000 hours IST
ĎI know my Indian culture... Iím not going to pose in a bikinií
18-year old Sania Mirza became Indiaís equivalent of Tiger Woods when she became the first Indian woman to reach the third round of the Australian Open. Although she went down to Serena Williams, she put up a spirited fight and won international acclaim for her hard-hitting serves and tremendous energy. Days later, she became the first Indian woman to win a WTA event ó on home turf in Hyderabad ó which sealed her status as a youth icon. Sheís now endorsing a range of products from mobile phones to cosmetics but tells Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express, on NDTV 24X7ís Walk the Talk, that her love and passion for tennis holds centrestage in her life and she hopes to be among the top 50 players by the end of the year.
ē She is perhaps the most loved teenager in this country since Sachin Tendulkar burst on the scene. Sania Mirza, welcome to Walk the Talk in your school, which you left last year.
It is an even greater pleasure to be here. Itís just so lovely to see my school uniform again.
ē But you donít have to study, no exams, no nothing...
Yeah thatís the better part of it. I donít have to write my exams, and I donít have to study. But I do have my exams coming up shortly in my BA Mass Communication so...
ē But more than that exam... You know, the next tournament.
I think those are tougher exams than what I actually gave last year over here, sitting in that hall downstairs. Getting up at six in the morning and playing week after week.
ē Whatís tougher: the Class XII student fighting for grades and percentages to get into college, or now ó getting up, exercise, gym, training...
Well, for me, I donít know... Itís right now...
ē The media?
Yes, thatís tough. But for me right now, itís tennis and itís really bad because I have to get up in the morning and... You know, every single day of my life, just practicing eight hours a day. I am sure it is the same thing for all the people trying to get 95 per cent in their boards also. So I guess itís wrong to compare these two things.
ē But 95 per cent, even 99 per cent in the boards, tells them you need to earn your living next year...
Yes, but I think for some people it is very important to get 95 per cent or 98 per cent. But when I gave my boards I just wanted to pass.
ē But you did fine.
Yes, got about 64, so it was okay.
ē Tell me, whatís your day like now?
Well, right now, I am on an off because my ankles are both injured. So I am just taking it easy, sleeping late, getting up late...
ē But usually, during your training time, whatís your day like?
Well, when I am training, I get up at six in the morning. I am at the courts by 7:15 am, warm up, practice till about 9:30-10 am. I come back, have breakfast, go to college, do whatever little work I have in college. Then by 2 pm, I have to come back. I am back at the tennis court at 2:30 pm, have lunch, maybe in the car or something. I come back at 6 pm, go to the gym, then return by 7:30 pm. I am dead by 7:30 pm, sometimes I may go for a massage after that, or I am just asleep by 10:30 pm.
ē Is there any difference in the way you train from the way your rivals train?
Well, I really donít know. Maybe some of them train less than what I do, some of them may train more than I do. So I really donít know how to compare that. But I know I am training hard, eight hours a day, 365 days a year. I donít think it is easy.
ē It is tough on the body as well.
Definitely. Thatís why we end up with so many injuries, I guess. Right now, both my ankles are injured and I have a little bit of thigh strain. So injuries are just a part of every athlete, whether tennis player or cricketer.
ē Thatís what happens to sportstars in this country. Sachin Tendulkar gets a bad elbow, the entire country gets a bad elbow.
I know. Everyday I read about my ankles more than I know about my ankles. Well, thatís the way India treats their stars, treats their idols.
ē And loads of advice, from homeopathy to acupressure...
Loads of advice, homeopathy to allopathy to physiotherapy...
ē So, who looks after your body and your fitness?
Over here, I train with a guy called Fayaaz, he is from EST ó thatís Azharuddinís gym here. My physiotherapist, well, the Indian cricket teamís, actually the Hyderabad cricket teamís is Mr Badrinath. Heís treating me right now, I did take a stint with Andrew Leipus too, but he is not here any more so...
ē I believe Azhar takes a lot of interest in your fitness...
Yes, he does. He is a great inspiration for me. I mean he is such a great athlete and...
ē He has been one of our fittest cricketers.
He probably is one of the fittest.
ē I have not seen someone his age with such a flat stomach.
Definitely, at 42-43... He gives me a complex. He is unbelievably fit, and whenever he is in town he tries to advise me.
ē Is there something that he complains about?
Yes, that I eat too much... Everytime I am with him, I have to tell him my whole diet for the past one week, which I hate doing. So I try to cut down when I am around him. I try not to eat so I donít have to lie to him.
ē So when one Hyderabadi questions another on what you eat and how much you eat, itís all about biryani isnít it?
Definitely, but I have cut down on my biryanis quite a lot.
ē Do you think that tennis involves a lot of self denial. You know, not just fitness and eating but also the kind of life you lead, the circuit?
I guess in any sport you have to give a lot of sacrifices, but tennis is never-ending. Definitely, it is one of the toughest sports I have seen.
ē Cricket has a season...
Yes, in tennis, you are playing all year round. And you are missing out on your normal life I guess. But now it all seems worth it, you know, when you perform. I guess when you donít perform, thatís when it really hits you that maybe I am taking a wrong decision. But what the hell, I mean you have to take risks in life.
ē Were there moments when you thought is this worth it?
When I was younger...there were definitely moments.
ē Younger means what... when you were six?
When I was 13 or 14, when I wasnít winning so much, but everyone was saying you are good, you are going to start winning. And I was like, when am I going to start winning. Suddenly, everything just clicked. Now, I am so passionate about the game that even if you ask me to stop, I donít think I can stop playing.
ē So whatís the target now? You have done your top 100 much ahead of target, isnít it? You have saved yourself six months.
No, I have saved myself 10 months, I said by the end of 2005 I would like to be in the top 100. I am testing myself by saying I want to be top 50 by the end of the year. Letís hope I can do it. Letís hope it comes before time as well.
ē Itís one thing to get from 150 to 99, or top 100. Itís quite another to get to top 50. How much of a leap do you think that is? How difficult is it?
See, in terms of points, I need about 300 more points to get into top 50. Just by these two tournaments, I think I have got about more than 150 points. If I have a couple of more tournaments like these, anything can happen. But it could also happen that I have a bad phase and I donít play like this. But itís okay, I am not going to be disappointed. Of course, I am going to be a little upset, but I guess thatís just a part of it.
ē When you see see the women in the top 50 today, do a lot of them look beatable?
Definitely. Actually last year, I played Nicole Pratt and the year before I played Amely too. She is around 45, Nicole is around 51. I played three sets against both of them. My fitness level wasnít as high as it is now, my serve wasnít as strong as it is now. So I guess I can match quite a bit...
ē But your return of serve was always a killer.
My return of serve, yes, it is one of the strongest points of my game.
ē We have seen you turn around your game from difficult situations, match points, deuces....
My return of serve definitely is one of the strongest points in my game, and I am very confident. I think it is just because of my timing...that I have the timing.
ē In fact, when you were playing in Australia, one of the commentators said that we have seen in Saniaís game the same element of touch and timing that is the hallmark of Indian tennis. He said we saw this in Amritraj. This is very true of Indian cricketers as well, particularly the Hyderabadi cricketers ó Azhar, Laxman, the touch, timing...
Yes, but I am not much of a touch player. I am a very offensive player. I donít like drop shots and chip-and-charge, you know. I am more of the hitting kind, the winning kind.
ē But you have got timing.
I have got timing and I think that is why I hit the ball harder than some of the boys do. Because I have the timing, though I donít look muscular or anything. I hit the ball as hard as perhaps some of the men do.
ē What was the thought in your mind when you were up against Serena? Watching you on TV, one could see some sense of amusement. It was like you were enjoying it too much.
Well initially, yes, I was enjoying it, no doubt about that. I was very happy to be playing against Serena, so excited that I was playing Serena Williams... I could not believe that three nights back, I was sleeping in my bed and seeing my draw and thinking that I might play Serena in the third round, and today I am playing her. So, it was an amazing feeling. And I was tense because I was thinking so much about the match. I was tense, when I am never tense during my matches. As everyone could see, in the first sets, I had a few unlucky points, some net calls that came over to my side instead of going that way, and that made the difference.
ē You know, your father complained to me that you are not somehow focussed, not so intense in the first set. Then he said that if she loses one, then she is like a wounded tigress.
Well, I think the first set... It was just that I was playing a big tournament, a big round, a big player, a massive player, if you can say that... So I knew I had to go out there and just have fun and enjoy. But then I was just thinking so much about playing Serena in front of such a big crowd, and so many people cheering for both of us... I was obviously the underdog there. Playing the second set, I think I matched her in the second set, and she obviously was getting under pressure.
ē Let me move beyond top 50. What is your ambition?
My ambition, to be honest, is to be in the top 25. Because I believe in being realistic. Maybe if I get into the top 25 in the next two years, maybe then I would say that I want to get into the top 10.
ē The last Indian to get somewhere up there was Vijay Amritraj.
Yes, so right now, I want to be in the top 25, maybe in about two to two-and-half years from now.
ē Thatís a good time frame. How long do you see yourself playing?
It really depends on my body, you know, because we are ending up in so many injuries.
ē Itís a very high-stress game now.
Definitely. And it is so physical. You need that 110 per cent every time you walk in the court. It is tough to do that. I have been doing it for 13 years now, and I already feel it. But you keep doing it till as long as you can... Till I am enjoying the game. I think thatís what matters.
ē But tennis is a very young peopleís game now. Itís one thing for us to say that Sania Mirza, at 18, carrying hopes of an entire country... But 18 is a pretty mature age for womenís tennis, isnít it?
Yes it is. I know people are retiring at 22-23, they are ending up in so many injuries. Martina Hingis did. So many people... Henin underwent injury. I was just reading in the papers today that she came back after about a year and won her match. So people are ending up in so many injuries... So anything can happen, I could play till 29, I could stop at 22.
ē But you see in the top 25-top 50, women of your age group, some even younger.
Definitely. But I guess itís just the way theyíve been trained all these years. You know, the number of coaches they have had, the best coaches in the world, the best training partners. They are at a certain advantage with their height and physical fitness too ó they are 6 feet tall, I am five seven-and-half. But over here, I look like some giant. Then when I go abroad...
ē You talked a lot about your foreign competition having had the benefit of scientific coaching, foreign coaches, very controlled environment. Do you regret not having had some of that?
Well, I donít need to regret it, because Iím still 99 in the world. But maybe some people should think that I do have a disadvantage. Because people tell me you are 18 and still 99. But they donít understand the amount of hard work thatís gone in being an Indian tennis player. You donít have proper courts...
ē You are far too spunky and far too talented to be satisfied with being in the 90s or 80s. You are aiming higher. For that, do you think itís necessary to go to a regulated foreign coaching environment?
I did go to Brett last year for a few weeks. Because of my ankles, I am just going to maybe try and play a few tournaments, see how I feel. After that, we will see how it goes.
ē So you might consider shifting and training for longer periods?
It really depends. I donít know. Training for longer periods, maybe, but I donít know if I want to shift my base.
ē Why, is it tough to stay away from home?
Yes, it is. Tough to stay away from biryani. I hope Azhar isnít watching.
ē Azhar will watch. If he doesnít we will let him know because all of us have a stake in your not eating too much biryani now.
I am not.
ē Thatís the other thing Sania, you are carrying so much hope and expectation you know. You saw the crowds you had, and now you know that you are a star. You canít hide from the fact. How much more pressure does it bring on you?
It definitely brings a lot of pressure on me. People are always expecting much more from me than what I actually can do, I feel. And till now, I donít know how I have always lived up to a lot of expectations, maybe not to all of the peopleís but to a lot of expectations. So, I am very happy at the way I have come through in my career till now. But the pressure is always going to be there, I guess. Itís just a part of it...
ē Do you ever exchange notes with other people who have handled the pressure? You have met Rahul Dravid. Recently, of course, you met Azhar. Have you met Sachin?
I have met Sachin, but we never had this kind of talk. It was just very general talk you know, not exactly about how to handle pressure or stuff like that. But I would love to do that.
ē But if you met him on a flight, or had lunch with him, what are the three questions you would ask him?
How do you hit like that ó I feel heís got amazing timing to hit those sixes. I would like to ask him how do you do that when you are so small?
ē Whatís the second question?
How does he handle so many expectations the way he has been over these years? Then how does he cope up with these injuries?
ē All right. Injuries, the power, and the pressure. What about the adulation and the money?
I donít think Sachin needs any more money.
ē Letís not get into the question of who needs what. All those kids who are watching, I think, also figure how much money you are going to make in the times to come.
Well, you know...
ē Why donít you ask him how to manage your money?
First thing is, I donít really care about money. Even today, I donít exactly manage my money. My parents do everything. I donít even know how much the tickets cost. So I am not really a money-minded person. I am playing tennis right now for the passion, and because I love the game so much.
ē Thatís the question I want to ask you. When you go out to play, where does the passion come from? Does it come form hating the opponent, wanting to beat her, or does it come from being wrapped in the Tricolour and playing for the nation? Is it money, is it glory, what is it?
It comes a little from everything, I guess. Yes, it does come from playing for India, having the Indian flag behind you, people saying Sania Mirza from India. It feels very proud to be an Indian.
Secondly, I think it comes from ĎI want to hit her with that ball in her stomachí. I think it comes from that too, I think thatís one of the reasons I hit every ball so hard. I donít know if money really drives me. It doesnít really motivate me.
ē I have talked to people like Vijay Amritraj, Leander. You can see they always performed much better when they were playing for the flag, as against the logo. You know, their Davis Cup performances were much better. How does it work for you, playing for India vs playing for yourself?
I give my 200 per cent everytime I walk on court. And even when I am not playing a team event, I am still playing for India, I am still playing for my country. Even though it is an individual sport, I am still playing for the nation.
ē But will you play for the Fed Cup?
Definitely, it is great to watch all these people with Indian flags and banners saying ĎCome on Indiaí.
ē Is there a difference between Advantage Sania and Advantage India?
There definitely is. I think Advantage India sounds better.
ē And you are very conscious of your Indian identity.
Yes, I am.
ē Itís not just the nose-ring, which, I think, will become a huge fashion statement.
I donít know. I have had this a long time now. But yes, I am very conscious of my Indian identity. I am very proud to be an Indian.
ē Were they surprised on the circuit when they first saw you ó an Indian woman, a young Indian woman?
In the beginning, yes. They probably thought it was a fluke. But when they kept seeing me more on the circuit, it got into their heads that, you know...
ē Especially at Wimbledon, I believe they didnít even have the Indian flag.
They didnít and they were like, sorry we have not had an Indian girl come and play here. Thatís why Wimbledon was so special for me. Because two years later, I went there and won the tournament.
ē So tell me about the incident. I believe they got the wrong flag.
They got the wrong flag and my father just went up to them and said you know youíve got it wrong.
ē And you got furious.
Yes, because they should respect peopleís flags, and they should respect whichever country they come from, whether it is a tennis-playing country or a non tennis-playing country. I was very furious. Two years later, when I won it... I am sure they are not going to forget the Indian flag for a long time now.
ē Thatís the Indian identity. Are you also conscious of your cultural, religious identity? I know you are religious, you pray...
Yes I am. I pray five times a day. I am very conscious about the pillars of Islam. I know my Indian culture, I know what my background says. You know, I do advertisements and stuff like that but if you ask me to pose in a bikini I am not going to do that. My religion doesnít permit it, nor do a lot of other things.
ē You are a religious family but not conservative.
We are conservative too, but to some extent. I mean, maybe the dresses I wear are not exactly right, but I guess Islam does have forgiveness. I donít know if I am doing anything wrong... I am sure God will forgive me.
ē I think any God will forgive you. And any God will forgive anyone who is in competitive sports, but most of all a person like you. Keep getting better and better Sania, we are all with you and may God be with you.
Mar 24th, 2006, 04:59 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Singles is my first preference: Sania
Sunday March 12 2006 00:00 IST
Sania Mirza/ PMG/Globosport
Indian Wells, California, is one of the prettiest resorts in the world and the tennis courts are located in what is probably one of the most picturesque places that I have had the good fortune to visit. This is the first time I will be playing out here and the atmosphere is electric.
My elbow injury has not healed entirely though it is better. Of course, the obvious solution would be to rest it for some more time but it doesnít quite work that way on the professional tennis circuit. Virtually, every player in the top 100 is struggling with some injury or the other and the golden rule is to take a break only if the injury threatens to get worse by continuing to play.
The problem stems from the fact that in order to compete at the highest level today, one has to push oneself to the very limit and this punishment to the body obviously results in injuries. The problems assume greater magnitude for players like me who come from a background, where we have had no professional advice from world class physical trainers during our formative years. Professional tennis is a tough sport and one is expected to bear the pains and aches, which are a part and parcel of a tennis playerís life.
By not playing in Doha, where I was in the main draw last week, Iíve already lost the opportunity to defend my last yearís ranking points, which resulted in a drop in my singles ranking for this week.
I need to earn a few points in the coming few weeks to get back into the top 35 in singles and having reached my best ever rank of 64 in doubles, I also have the opportunity to break into the top 50 of the world in doubles with a couple of good performances. Rest is not really at the top of my list of priorities though I will be monitoring the pain in my elbow and wrist very closely under the supervision of the physiotherapist.
Of course, singles is my priority for sure but the rise in my doubles ranking gives me a special thrill for some very personal reasons. It has been a long grind in doubles right from the junior days, when no decent player wanted to play with me for the simple reason that Indian women had no history of being great doubles players. It was a twist of fate that helped me combine with Alysa Kleybanova to lift the girls doubles title in Wimbledon 2003.
We decided to play together at the very last moment because neither of us could find anyone else to play with and miraculously we won the most prestigious title in the world.
Even on the professional circuit, I have never had any regular doubles partner and it has not been easy to work my way up in the hierarchy of doubles specialists of the world.
Ai Sugiyama, my doubles partner for the week is one of the leading doubles specialists on the circuit and one who is highly respected.
The fact that she agreed to play with me in this major tournament is an honour for me and though we are unseeded, Iím looking forward to learning a lot from this wily exponent of the doubles game.
Mar 24th, 2006, 01:03 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Tatishvili ousts Mirza on rain-marred day in Miami
MIAMI (AFP) - Georgian teenager Anna Tatishvili saw off Indian tennis star Sania Mirza on a rain-wracked in the 6.9 million-dollar Miami WTA and ATP Masters Series tournament.
Tatishvili, who trains in Florida and received a wild card into the draw, beat Mirza 7-6 (8/6), 1-6, 7-6 (10/8) to claim her first match victory in her fourth WTA tour event.
After letting slip a 4-0 lead in the third set, she fended off Mirza's chances to take the match, despite admitting to nerves on the big stage of Stadium Court.
"I just really wanted to win," Tatishvili said.
"She hung in there and she was playing some great tennis," said Mirza, who this week received the WTA award for best newcomer of 2005, but who fell in an opening match for the third time in seven events in 2006.
"I guess it's a bit tough when you're not really playing the best tennis and the other girl is just playing some unbelievable shots," she said.
M.Kirilenko / A.Ivanovic / C.Wozniacki / A.Pavlyuchenkova
T.Paszek / M.Domachowska / D.Cibulkova / Agnes Szavay
Mar 24th, 2006, 01:10 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
|Hyderabad's young tennis players celebrate Sania Mirza's new WTA title
By Narendra, Hyderabad: Budding tennis players in Hyderabad today expressed pleasure over tennis ace Sania Mirza's selection as the best newcomer of the year for 2005 at the coveted WTA tennis awards.
People danced with joy and wished Sania luck in her life ahead.
"I am feeling very happy for her. I hope that she gets more awards. She should continue playing nicely and she should see that she does'nt become overconfident and play coolly," said Junaid, a young tennis player.
Janaki, another budding player, said she was awestruck by Mirza's aggressiveness, and added that she was the perfect role model for girls like her.
"She has a good forearm. She is very aggressive. She has beaten all good players and has also given a tough fight to other players. She has done well in her first Grand Slam. So, I think she is doing well," she said.
Narendranath, Mirza's former coach, says the recognition by WTA was a great honour.
"It's a good recognition to have because it's an organisation controlled by all tennis professionals and for them to recognise her as a potential newcomer is creditable," he said.
Nineteen-year-old Mirza was honoured with the best debutant award at a glittering ceremony on Tuesday in Miami where world number one Roger Federer and U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters were named as professional tennis players of the year for 2005.
Mirza enjoyed a breakout season in 2005, capturing her first WTA title in Hyderabad and reaching the fourth round of the U.S. Open before succumbing to Russia's Maria Sharapova.
But her results in 2006 have been poor. She has won just three singles matches in five events since the turn of the year slipping from a career-high ranking of 31 at the end of 2005 to 45th.
Under the tutelage of Roger Federer's coach Tony Roche, Mirza has changed her service action and believes she's making progress. Off court, however, the Indian teenager has plenty to talk about.
Mirza has already had a taste of the celebrity that surrounds tennis greats, despite her achievement being no match for what the top names in the tennis circuit boast off.
That she was the first Indian woman to accomplish either feat has sent her popularity soaring among her one billion compatriots.
In just one year, she has become a sporting idol, a fashion icon and, like Maria Sharapova, needs her own entourage of burly security guards whenever she steps out from home.
M.Kirilenko / A.Ivanovic / C.Wozniacki / A.Pavlyuchenkova
T.Paszek / M.Domachowska / D.Cibulkova / Agnes Szavay
Mar 25th, 2006, 01:42 PM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Well this is my first post...interview after the defeat..
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. What a see‑saw, long, exciting match.
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, I guess it's a bit tough when you're not really playing the best tennis and the other girl is just, you know, playing some unbelievable shots. She came up with some great shots, some matchpoints. It could have gone everywhere till the last point.
But, you know, I guess my forehand deserted me and that's my strength. If I can't hit forehands inside the court, I don't know, I lose like 75% of my game.
So I guess that was what went wrong really. I mean, I served well. She was ‑‑ hats off to her, though. I mean, she hung in there and she was playing some great tennis.
Q. Had you ever seen her play before?
SANIA MIRZA: I hadn't even seen her before (smiling).
Yeah, I mean, she's young and she's a great player. I'm sure we're going to see a lot more of her. It's obviously hard when you're playing a person who's playing so well in the first round. She's playing with no pressure and she's just going for it; on matchpoint, she's going for winners. I was just trying to, since I couldn't hit winners off my forehand, trying to put the ball in play.
So, you know, I guess I was missing on those couple of winners where I should have hit on the matchpoints that I had.
Q. You just received Newcomer of the Year, I believe, which I know is a wonderful honor, but it is about last year. You're in this year. So much happened for you last year. How can you recapture some of that momentum now after this first part of the season which I know hasn't been what you would have wanted?
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, I mean, the second year on the tour is obviously much tougher than the first. Everyone knows how you play and everyone knows your weaknesses and your strong points. They all come in with a game plan.
I guess when you ‑‑ in the first year, you're a rookie and every win that I have is a surprise. But today, when I went into the match, obviously everyone expected me to win the match, but that wasn't the case last year.
I guess that's the same for her this year. If she becomes full‑time, then next year it's going to be harder.
Q. It seemed like a lot of the crowd was yelling "Anna" a lot. How did that affect you? Did that affect you?
SANIA MIRZA: Well, you know, you need to block everything out. I guess, you know, she's young and everyone wants her to play well. I guess a lot of people like underdogs and, you know, I mean, what the hell, she played great.
Yeah, I'm used to playing with the crowd on my side, but it doesn't really affect me as much because you're just there and you've got to play your game.
Q. You made quite a lot of use of the challenges. Talk about that.
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, I mean, it's great. It felt really nice. Just I think sometimes in the important points you do get the points, like I did on one of them, just scraped the line.
So it's pretty good, and I think it's a great rule, and hopefully it will continue for the years to come.
Q. I have some non‑match questions. These are things you probably talked a million times about, but what kind of pressure do you feel having so many people from India watching you, and the expectations on you? How do you handle that?
SANIA MIRZA: Well, you've got to do what you've got to do. I mean, expectations are always going to be there, there's always going to be pressure. It increases by the day. You need to learn how to cope with it. Sometimes you feel it and sometimes you don't. You just learn. By this match, I've learned a lot. Every day you learn.
I guess that I've matured a lot as a tennis player over the past one year, and my expectations have increased. I'm sure a lot of people will be disappointed tomorrow and after this match, but what can you do? It's not the first match that I've lost, and it's definitely not the last. So I'm going to lose some close matches, I'm going to win some.
Q. A lot has been made, and again it's been written quite a bit, about you've been criticized by people back home about sometimes the attire you wear. How do you deal with those kind of issues, when people make a big deal about what you choose to wear?
SANIA MIRZA: I mean, I keep stressing I'm just here to play tennis. That's what I'm going to do the best I can. You know, when I retire, I'm sure no one will remember me. So, you know, it's just a matter of a few years and I just have to focus on my game and I think try and block out as much as possible.
Q. Some people see you as a symbol of independence. I mean, do you even look at it in those terms? There are people who say you are sort of leading the way.
SANIA MIRZA: I guess I'm just going to repeat my answer: I'm just here to play tennis, and I'm going to do whatever I can to be the best that I can as much as I can.
Q. In India, what is it like when you walk out on the street?
SANIA MIRZA: Well, it's hard. I mean, it's hard to, you know, hard to walk out. In India usually I don't walk anyway so (smiling)...
Yeah, little things like my cars are pretty dark tinted and stuff. You just have to get used to it, I think. Sometimes I like being outside India where there are not too many Indians, which is very rare (smiling).
But I, you know ‑‑ it's fun. I'm enjoying every moment of it.
Q. Do you have a bodyguard there for your protection?
SANIA MIRZA: Uh‑hmm, uh‑hmm.
Q. Is that something that ‑‑ how do you deal with that?
SANIA MIRZA: I think it's better to be safe than sorry. So, you know, it's just a precaution. Obviously, all that's gone on in the past, you know, we just thought maybe we should just have someone.
Q. Was it hard to have to give up the match with Shahar Peer earlier in the year? I know you wanted to play.
SANIA MIRZA: Well, I mean, that wasn't the reason we didn't play together. That's all I have to say. You know, we're great friends, but that wasn't the reason we didn't play together.
Q. What do you do to relax? What do you do to get away from the pressure and intensity?
SANIA MIRZA: Sleep. I don't know. I mean, yeah, I love the fact that when you sleep, you forget about everything, about your worries and about your pressures and about even happiness for that matter. You know, you go into this other world. I love the fact that you can block out everything for a couple of hours.
Q. Do you like movies? Do you like television?
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, but, I mean, it's not that every moment of my life I'm thinking, "I've got pressure, I've got pressure." Whatever I do when I'm not on the tennis court, you know, I'm doing all kinds of things.
SANIA MIRZA: Well, I mean, just like any other 20‑year‑old. I'm not a party person, I guess that's the difference. I'm just a stay‑home person. If I have a day off, I'll probably wake up at 12 in the morning and, you know, just relax and have some friends over or something.
Q. What do you want to achieve more than anything else? What would you like to be able to accomplish in the next few years?
SANIA MIRZA: Well, you know, I think I shouldn't put any numbers on my ‑ my vocabulary, I'm losing it, sorry ‑ on my goals. I just want to say that I'm going to try as much as I can, and hopefully injuries not being a major part of it, which I've been injured quite a lot in the past year and a half. I'm still injured.
So, you know, I would love to be No. 1 in the world but, you know, even if I go down as 31 as my highest ranking, I'll still be satisfied.
Q. Do you see yourself as a role model for young girls, whether it's India or anywhere?
SANIA MIRZA: I don't know. I mean, you know, obviously, the way the expectation and pressure, the responsibility, because you know people are looking at you and they want to be like you. It feels nice that people are inspired by you. You know, just the fact that there are so many girls picking up tennis racquets now is something amazing in India.
So it feels really nice, and hopefully I can keep up to their expectations.
Q. When you go back home, are you mobbed? Do you need bodyguards?
THE MODERATOR: That's been asked already.
Q. I just had a question, you have quite an elaborate brace.
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, I injured my wrist three ‑‑ four weeks ago and injured my elbow playing in India, so I need a new arm (smiling).
Q. You wear it to practice also then?
SANIA MIRZA: Yeah, I always have to have it on because I ‑‑ well, not to get into details, I just hurt the back of my elbow so it hurts every time I serve.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports...
Mar 26th, 2006, 04:25 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
The newcomer award was yummy
TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ SUNDAY, MARCH 26, 2006 12:08:39 AM]
On Tuesday, she flashed a smile for the flashing bulbs, her award in her arms. On Friday, Sania Mirza couldnít even match eyes with the 16-year-old wildcard, Georgian teenager Anna Tatishvili, who will al-ways remember this match ó her first victory in the fourth WTA Tour event.
Just five days earlier, Sania was the toast of the tennis fraternity. She had been voted the Most Impressive Newcomer on the WTA Tour, an award that Sania had every justifiable claim to.
She hob-nobbed with the Whoís Who in tennis, shared the same stage as Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters and sat next to Rafael Nadal during the award ceremony. The world was a warm and happy place for the 19-year-old.
The 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-7 (8) loss on a rain-wracked Friday night changed that. It was the third time in seven events that Sania failed to cross the opening round.
Sania could well be forgiven for thinking sheís in a bad movie where sheís losing to competitors younger to her, losing matches that she shouldíve won, like the one against Tatishvili, where she was 4-0 up in the third set. The problem: It isnít make-believe, itís real.
Though itís just been three months into the year and too early to make judgments, Saniaís win-loss record isnít too encouraging. Itís a disappointing 4-7, which means that she wins after every two losses. The now-hot, now-cool play is not doing her ranking any good. Sheís dropped out of the top 40 and is now cooling her heels at 41.
The WTA award is an affirmation of her talent. No arguments there. Sania plays an aggressive game, constructed around her explosive forehand which is, undoubtedly, the biggest in the game today.
But what beyond that? Experts believe that Sania has the ability and the talent to be at a cer-tain level, like in the 30s, but is still not good enough to go beyond. She doesnít have a serve, wonít come into the net and gets injured too often.
Things that Sania has had to listen to everyday since she made it big. Sania is aware that sheís an unfinished product and is determined to prove them wrong.
Who couldíve imagined two years ago that an In-dian teenager would play with the likes of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova on equal ground and come off the court, having won more than lost. Sania did that and sheís raring to do even more.
She knows it takes a lot of hard work to crack the top 25 and she has set about working on that. Her serve and volleying needed to improve so she headed to the sunny shores of Australia to learn from the best in the business, Tony Roche.
She realised that sheís not the fittest in the world and has confessed to playing tournaments not fully fit. But she hopes to change that by having on board a trainer who will help her keep the niggles at bay.
Sania was under no illusions about how tough the second year would be. She was prepared for it and she realises that when one is not playing their best, winning becomes that much more difficult.
Sheís ready to hang in there, improving slowly, much to the dismay of the Indian fan, who equates every drop in ranking to a falling Sensex.
New stars emerge every Monday and like Sania is discovering, there are hundreds of eager, hungry teenagers, fed on a diet of tennis balls and laps around the tennis court since the age of five, who want fame and titles, right here, right now.
Only the ones that sustain that hunger and show the temerity to take a few hard blows, stay around for the next few years.
Mar 28th, 2006, 06:57 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Boy, they do love to panic.
She may be losing matches, but her game has shown big improvements.I wouldn't say she has no serve any more. I was impressed with what I saw. Good use of spin,placement, and the ability to hit the extremes of the court consistently.Her slice serve has really improved, curves away nicely, and tough to attack. More work needed, but the signs are good. Tony R was well worth the hefty paycheck.
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